What We Can Learn From Josh and Grace

Every once in a while, you come across a simple story that brings a smile to your face and a tear to your eye; a story that makes you realize what is important and gives you hope for the future. Today I discovered once such story about Down Syndrome from two fellow Canadians, Josh and Grace Curley.

Josh and Grace – Down Syndrome
Josh and Grace

Josh is 18 years old and has Down Syndrome. Grace is his older sister and best friend. They have a message that they would like to share. They need no help from me. Everything is eloquently explained in the two-minute video below.

It’s hard to imagine anyone not being touched after seeing this. In their 18-picture, 115-word slide show, Josh and Grace convey a message of love, understanding, openness and respect for others—virtues that are too often lacking nowadays.

There are also several things that we can learn from Josh and Grace when it comes to public speaking and presentation skills.

Public speaking lessons

  • Have a clear message.
  • Don’t use complicated words when simple ones will do.
  • Facial expressions and gestures enhance the effectiveness of your words.
  • Eye contact is crucial to forming a bond with the audience.
  • Humour is good.
  • Humour balanced with a serious message is even better.
  • Having a memorable line will help your message resonate with the audience long after you are finished. “Real friends don’t count chromosomes.” Superb!
  • Don’t worry about being perfect. Your audience doesn’t expect to be perfect; it wants you to be present.
  • A call to action — “I’ll give you a chance, if you give me one too.” — is a powerful way to end a speech or presentation.
  • Speak from the heart.
  • Be yourself.
  • Smile.

Please leave a comment if you picked up any other lessons, whether they have to do with public speaking or not.

In the meantime, my sincere congratulations to Josh and Grace for making this slideshow and my best wishes for the future. I am happy to be able to help spread the message.

For those of you who would like to support the great organizations that promote the rights, abilities and dignity of people with Down Syndrome, you may make a donation to the Canadian Down Syndrome Society.

Image a screenshot from video above

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  1. John, there are many beautiful people in the world and you are one of them. (I know you will edit this first bit out! or maybe not!) You took this story and extended it a step further. You pointing out all the simple things to be appreciated and ended with information as to how we could change ourselves from passive consumers to active changers.
    Thanks for empowering us.

    1. Thanks, Olivia. I really appreciate the comment. The post was easy to write – Josh and Grace did all the work. And given that I am so rarely associated with a word like “beautiful” there was no way that I was going to edit it out! 😉

  2. John,
    Thank you so much for sharing … I loved it! What powerful messages in just a few short minutes. I agree with Olivia, your comments afterward were great. Everyone who takes the time to look at this video will get something out of it.
    I went to an Andy Andrews live event a couple of days ago & he spoke about how important it is to feed your mind with positive information. This is certainly what he prescribed! It is also prompting me to post a video that is similar. Hopefully I will do that next. Thanks. Make today a great one!!
    Lynn 🙂

    1. Many thanks for the comment, Lynn. Much appreciated. It’s a great example of how one can convey an incredible message in very few words. Simplicity really is the ultimate sophistication, as Leonardo da Vinci said.
      Best of luck with your own video. Let us know when it is up.

  3. John,
    Beautiful story, beautiful message, and for public speakers, beautiful application.
    Your use of this video in a business framework does not lessen its power at all and demonstrates how using “non-business” videos and stories will often make a more powerful point than a business anecdote. We’ve all heard about boiling frogs, changing tires on a car going 60 MPH but how much more powerful was the message from these two wonderful young people.

    1. I very much appreciate the comment, Ron. I agree with you completely about the power of non-traditional stories, videos, etc. in a business context. It reminds me of the great book “Made to Stick” where Chip and Dan Heath where unexpectedness is one of the indicia of a sticky message. Of course, this video is about something much more important than a presentation and I hope that this comes through in the post. Still, I enjoy finding public speaking inspiration in unlikely places and am glad that you like the post.

  4. I loved this. Where are josh and grace from? I have a little brother with downs too and would love to talk to them!

    1. Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for the message. I am not exactly sure where Josh and Grace are from, though they are from somewhere in Ontario, Canada. You should be able to find more details by Googling them.

    1. Hi Danielle. Thanks very much for the comment and for sharing the video about Emily. I am glad that you have provided the link and am happy to encourage people to watch it and reflect on it.

  5. Dear John,
    I am Josh and Grace’s mom. I can’t thank you enough for making the kid’s message go just a little further. Your words warm my heart. The world is becoming more accepting with the help of people like you and Josh and Grace. They really are a couple of special people.

    1. Dear Nancy,
      How wonderful to hear from you. I am delighted that you enjoyed the blog post and am more than happy to do a tiny bit to help build up awareness and break down stereotypes. My very best wishes to you and your family. Please pass my warm regards to Josh and Grace.

  6. John,

    Thank you for doing this. I have a 14 year old brother named Josh with DS and this is so true for me as an older sister. More people need to see this and understand about these special people in our lives.


    1. Hi Becky,

      Thanks for the comment and for sharing a small piece of your story. I am glad to be able to help spread the word, if only in a small way. Best of luck to you and Josh for the future.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International